Vintage WWII Fighter Plane Crashes on California Highway

A vintage world-war-II model single-engine plane crashed on California highway yesterday (Oct. 24)
A vintage world-war-II model single-engine plane crashed on California highway yesterday (Oct. 24) (Image credit: Cynthia Alvarez/AFP/Getty)

A small vintage plane dressed up as a World War II Nazi aircraft crashed on California's highway 101 yesterday (Oct. 24), according to recent news reports. No one was injured in the crash.

The pilot, later identified as Ron Sandberg, took off from Van Nuys Airport for a training exercise before sending out an emergency alert around 1:45 p.m. local time that he had lost power in the plane. [Supersonic! The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes]

"He heard a couple of loud pops in the engine. ... He was able to control it and was trying to land on the 101 freeway, but there was a car in front of him," California Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Starling told KTLA. "So, as he landed, touched down, he had to jerk the wheel hard to the left to avoid the vehicle. That’s when he crashed into the center divider."

The pilot, who flies for Alaska Airlines, walked away from the crash with minor injuries, according to AP News.

He told KTLA in a previous interview that he was interested in vintage airplanes because his father had flown in World War II. The single-engine model that crashed was a North American Aviation T-6 Texan, which was first developed in the 1930s and used by U.S. pilots to train during World War II, according to AP News.

Not as fast as fighter jets, but easier to maneuver and handle, the T-6 Texan plane "was designed to give the best possible training in all types of tactics," according to Boeing's website. These include ground strafing, which is when low-flying aircraft attack the ground with guns, bombardment and aerial dogfighting. The plane could perform tricks that included rolls, loops and spins.

The T-6 Texan plane was an advanced training aircraft — it trained a couple hundred thousand pilots in 34 countries across a span of 25 years, according to Boeing. But it did win some honors in World War II and the early Korean War, according to Boeing.

The particular craft flown by Sandberg was painted with camouflage and markings — a black cross surrounded by a white border, called the "Balkenkreuz" emblem — to mimic warplanes in the World War II Nazi air force, according to Gizmodo.

This painted plane belongs to the Condor Squadron, a group that performs mock dogfights for air shows (the plane might have been used to portray Nazi planes losing dogfights to Allies, according to Gizmodo). These planes also fly in formation over parades, memorial services and events for honoring veterans, according to AP News.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the crash.

Originally published on Live Science.

Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.